By Rachel Fluharty
Who the heck is Josh Strang? The 21-year-old from Australia has taken control of America’s largest off-road racing series, the Can-Am GNCC Series, after winning three-straight races. They haven’t come easy, either, as Strang has battled heat and humidity, mud and bad luck along the way. He even ran out of gas at the opener in Florida, only to put together this streak and grab the points lead (not unlike James Stewart’s run in Monster Energy Supercross). If Strang wins this title, he’ll join the pantheon of greats like Scott Summers, Rodney Smith, Barry Hawk, Juha Salminen and David Knight. He’s a nice guy who likes living here and enjoys putting in the hard work. And just in case he does win the title, we’ll tell you who he is.
A place called Inverell.
What is it like where you live?
It’s a small town. It’s in between towns, and the next town the same size is about a little hour away. So it’s kind of remote, I guess. Other than that it’s pretty good. Not as many trees as here in North Carolina (where Strang lives now) and not as much rain. But just enough to keep me happy. Or to have kept me happy for the 17 or 18 years I was there!
Where are you in NC?
I’m in Hickory, NC. It’s why I like living here, it’s pretty similar to home. It’s different just because it’s bigger, and there’s more things to do on my time off. I just enjoy it.
What kind of racing did you do in Australia?
I did a bunch of motocross when I was little. I started racing when I was seven. I did motocross from then all the way until I came here. The last three years I did a bunch of off road stuff, which is different to GNCC but it’s still in the trees and it helped me a bit.
How did you first hear about the Grand National Cross Country Series?
Probably through (Shane) Watts. With Wattsy coming over and winning the championship in 99, I think. His name was on the radar in the magazines and then when Glen (Kearney) came over in ’05 or whenever he came over. Basically those two guys got their GNCC stuff on the Australia map. Which made more people realize it’s something we can do.
Why did you decide to come to the U.S. to race?
I just wanted to race. I wanted to race in Europe or America for like a team. That’s what I wanted to do. I’m actually happy I came here instead of Europe because of the way things are going right now and where I’m living.
You’ve been very successful lately, winning the last three rounds of the series. What kind of strides did it take to get where you are today?
It’s taken two years I guess to work out all the bugs and work out how to ride up front and win races. In 2007 I came over and I didn’t do anything really special. I was probably even lucky to keep my job! But I think it was a good learning year and I had a bunch of good people around me. Then last year, with Knighter still racing here, worked well. I got on the new Suzuki 450 which I think helped me a lot. I think it’s just a bunch of learning and riding with good people and training hard all pays off in the end.
December through February is when the ass kicking gets done! When I was back home in Australia, Andy Cunninghamgets me on a weight program and gets me ready for that. Then he helps out with programs when I come back over here. I also work with Rodney and Lori Smith. I go to their house in California. I have three really good people to help me out, and definitely it helps having Rodney with the success he has in GNCC. We go to the tack and he can still put a beating on me and go quicker than me sometimes. It’s kind of embarrassing, actually!
Do people back in Australia follow your success here?
Yeah I think it’s getting better now. Actually a radio station from Sydney called me to do an interview and lots of people following live timing on the GNCC site (www.gnccracing.com). And not just to follow me but to follow Glen and the race in general. It’s kind of cool.
Do you think you will stay here for awhile?
I’m going to stay until I’m unable to make money or unhappy. Or If I get kicked off! One of those three. You never know how things can go.
I’ve noticed you’re always very cautious about your success, saying there’s still a long way to go, why is that?
Well, it’s a big series. It’s 13 rounds, you have one bad race and it’s points down the drain. I’m only about two points ahead. Until you have a 60 point lead you can’t get that excited about a championship, especially five races into the season. The big deal is winning races and getting points. Once the point lead gets up, then I’ll be more relaxed. I can’t relax too much now.
What was that transfer like from motocross to GNCC?
For me, it was easy. The town I grew up in wasn’t too hard on us, so we did a lot of woods riding. But for some guys going from motocross to off-road, it’s hard for them. I think you just have to be smart and go slow to go faster through the trees. I think that’s where some guys have trouble coming over here to try and do this stuff. But then again, guys who’ve never ridden motocross have trouble going from the woods to the motocross. I would rather go practice on a motocross track during the week than a woods track.
Really? Why is that?
I’d rather practice with fast guys than in the trees. When you ride with guys at a motocross track, there’s always going to be some as fast or faster. There are more people that can go faster on a motocross track and that benefits me.
What’s the plan for this weekend’s race in Lafayette, Tennessee?
Just try to do the same things I’ve done at the last three!
Well good luck, Josh.